In a tearful Facebook video posted on Friday (June 19), Georgia State Rep. Erica Thomas described an incident at an Atlanta-area Publix grocery store during which a white man “degraded and berated her.”
Thomas says she was in the express line at the grocery store because she was nine months pregnant and couldn’t stand for long periods of time.
“And this white man comes up to me and says: ‘You lazy son of a b***h,”’ Thomas said while sobbing. “He says: ‘You lazy son of a b***h; you need to go back where you came from.”’
We have a serious problem in this Country when @itsericathomas is subjected to racism in a Cobb County @Publix in front of her daughter. #gapol. #IStandwithErica thank you @RenittaShannon for alerting me and the @NAACPGA. #NoPlaceforHate. pic.twitter.com/hN5HDS4aG9— Gerald A. Griggs (@AttorneyGriggs) July 20, 2019
The video subsequently went viral with the hashtag #IStandWithErica soon emerging. The man would be later identified as Eric Sparkes during a coincidental T.V. appearance he made.
Rep. Thomas of Austell, Georgia was waiting to be interviewed about the ordeal outside of the Mableton Publix store the following day when she suddenly spotted the man who she claims hurled verbal abuse at her in the checkout line. So she decided to confront him.
“If you know how you made me feel yesterday,” Thomas began telling Sparkes as the T.V. cameras rolled.
“Back off,” Sparkes replied, and then accused Thomas of lying about the incident.
“I'm a liar about what?”
“Everything that happened,” Sparkes says.
“Do you feel bad?” Thomas asked, referring to the incident from the day before.
“Me telling you to ‘Go back where you came from.’ Did I say that?” Sparkes interrupted. “Is it on video?”
“What did you say to me then?” Thomas asks.
Sparkes then admits that “I called you a lazy b***h,” adding that “That's the worst thing I said.”
“Yeah, that makes you look better to say that,” Thomas scoffed.
Sparkes denies he used any explicitly racist language during the incident and claims he’s a Democrat from Cuba.
In a statement, Publix claims they are “cooperating with local law enforcement as they look into the matter.”
The incident comes just days after Donald Trump made similar remarks to what Rep. Thomas alleges the man did while she was at the grocery store. The president, both on Twitter and in front of cameras, told four Democratic congresswoman to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”
His remarks would culminate into an even more racist showing during a North Carolina campaign rally at which members of the audience chanted “send her back” repeatedly after Trump described his disdain for freshman Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Somali national who has been an American citizen for more than 25 years.
Erica Thomas says she’s notified police about her incident and will seek store surveillance footage. She told local news cameras during the interview that Sparkes “needs to be held accountable because people can’t just go out and berate pregnant women.”
Photo: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images